Fears about online movie exposure may be unwarranted

Studios fret over online crack in cable window

Some worry that the growing online exposure of movies will wear out audience appeal for those films once they hit the basic cable window 27 to 30 months after theatrical premiere. But there are reasons to believe that such fears are unwarranted.

“There’s increased availability of movies, but it is pretty much (among) catalog titles,” says Tom Adams, principal U.S. media analyst at IHS Screen Digest, referring to older movies that have completed their first-cycle runs. “The situation for new releases less than three years old has not changed all that much.”

Adams says that day-and-date VOD availability is offset by substantially reduced sales of discs. “And rentals are flat,” he says, which may actually add up to less viewing prior to the basic window.

One clear trend is that studios are squeezing more windows into a new movie’s lucrative first-cycle sales, which distribs say also can be cost-effective for buyers. While years ago, a single basic cable network usually took a given film for the entire basic/broadcast network window, which runs around five years between the first and second pay windows, a new trend is to license a given movie to more than one channel in a series of narrower, less-pricey but still-exclusive windows. For example, one channel might take a title for years one, three and five, while another acquires the same movie for years two and four.

Film sellers say that in this bouncing-window structure, basic cable networks don’t get stuck paying for a movie that rotates out of their playlist.

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